EI Go-To Market Strategy Barometer 3 - Final Edition
EI Go-to-Market Barometer
EI Advisory: Go-To Market Strategy Barometer
September to December 2020
EI Go-to-Market Barometer
Tracking sentiments, trends and challenges of B2B marketers and media owners
Short survey with easy input. Designed to be a fast-pulse.
The barometer has run at regular intervals during 2020 in order to map how sentiment has changed over time.
New for Autumn 2020: We've invited b2b media and event owners to take part in the barometer to gain additional insights on how the pandemic has affected their businesses, what their plans are for the future, how they are addressing networking challenges and share best practice around whats working well.
Tracking sentiment, challenges and trends among B2B Marketers and B2B media owners as they navigate and pivot to the new normal.
Peer group collective view of what has changed over the year
Part 1: State of the Market: Tactics in a New World
What Go-to-Market tactics are being employed and will now shape the industry as we move forward?
Long term planning returns but with built in agility
Insight 1: Marketing planning cycles return quicker than expected, with an ability to be agile
Since March 2020, EI has been tracking the ability of marketers to plan long term go to market strategy. At the onset of Covid, all marketers moved to short term reactive planning (Graph 1) to respond to the crisis. whilst 46% of Barometer respondents are now able to plan for 6 months and beyond (Graph 2). Although EI's clients have managed to turn attention back towards long term goals, they are also building frameworks that allow for agile quarter by quarter planning for any volatility that continues to present itself in the market.
Insight 2: It is a myth that virtual events have a shorter lead time
32% of media providers are planning 9 months+ and a very small proportion have short timeframes. Where it was originally thought that virtual events were quicker to produce, it appears that for large events and conferences, existing production timelines are still required; an increased need for higher quality content and speakers in a virtual world means there is no corner cutting room in production cycles. In line with marketers, media providers, however, are planning smaller webinars and bespoke roundtables throughout the year to offer clients audience engagement touchpoints as they continue to build short-term quarter by quarter plans.
Our marketing strategy will have to be highly agile, meet shorter-term goals, and edit key messages to suit customers.
Our marketing cycles have accelerated where we used to plan for a full year but now it's only a quarter-by-quarter basis where we can shift budget and change strategies to remain agile.
Digital acceleration and the rise of social for relationship building
Insight 3: Lack of in-person engagement fuels unprecedented digital acceleration within the Go-to-Market Strategy
The huge tactical shift in Go-to-Market Strategy from an in-person environment to a pure digital-first approach has been a catalyst for increased speed to market as B2B marketers seek to engage audiences online in an increasingly competitive ecosystem. With the need for timely content, speed of delivery to relevant audiences is a must. Along with the need for speed is a build of the right tech to execute digital go to market campaigns successfully, whether it be for tracking campaigns, SEO, social strategy, data analytics or more.
Insight 4: Social Channels provide a route to lead engagement in lieu of F2F discussions at physical events
EI's clients see social media as an indispensable marketing tactic for any business that wants to remain pertinent and gain exposure, in today's busy online world, where face to face events cease to exist. The right social channels offer an ideal platform for editorial content establishing brands as trusted leaders in their field, as well as engaging leads through conversations. Marketers need to learn how to measure it’s success, whilst suppliers need to enhance their non- pure editorial social handles.
What has been the biggest change to your strategy?
Move to digital channels; emphasis on timely content - quicker to market
Huge reliance on digital channels in the absence of F2F requiring a build of the right tech and using it impressively and usefully for clients.
We have also reduced the number of whitepapers for more digestible content to reflect that our audience has less time than ever before. And turned to social to replicate hallway conversations.
Insight 5: Virtual events no longer a temporary fix, but a newly established Go-to-Market channel in their own right
It is clear that the digital events channel has matured over the course of the year and this is hopefully set to continue. There has been a major learning curve though in how to utilise virtual events as part of a go-to-market strategy, with mixed experiences reported. Tactics in the new world require marketers and media suppliers to ascertain what is best in class for a virtual event from a digital perspective rather than applying a physical lens to them. The purpose and strategy across all event elements from networking/booths/delivery of content all needs reassessing. Education is key as virtual events are here to stay
I think people are appreciating you can't take the format and agendas of in-person and just flip to virtual. Needs a total mindset shift and re-building, not just pivoting.
Event strategy - moving from physical to virtual and identifying what that new strategy and contact acquisition/lead gen channel looks like.
Insight 6: ABM becomes a significant part of Marketers' strategic playbook
With big levers in the market being disrupted, ABM has continued to grow as a core part of marketers' Go-to-market Strategy. Currently 70% of EI's clients are employing an ABM strategy. Of those surveyed, the majority are using this strategy to grow existing accounts or to improve client engagement and retention (Graph 1). In an environment where f2f engagement no longer exists, where there is an increased difficulty in getting people’s attention and where there is a risk of digital saturation, the need for relevancy, hyper-personalisation for 'the audience of one' is even greater. EI has seen a significant upshot in the number of clients requiring ABM reports to support them in this process.
Those organisations like the FT and Innovation Leader who try to do more/different/better in the virtual space seem to do better than those who are trying to replicate a physical event.
Marketer's perspective on Innovation
We had to pivot to delivering our large annual congress as a digital event and it gave us an opportunity to launch new non-event initiatives and products to strengthen our role in the ecosystem we serve.
Media Provider perspective on Innovation
Insight 7: Take the plunge with innovative strategies and new third party offerings to circumvent fatigue and digital saturation.
With the pandemic creating a global shift to a digital marketing strategy for B2B marketers, there is huge pressure to gain traction in an increasingly crowded market. Responses to the Barometer showed there is a real hunger for marketing innovation across events, ad formats, social, and content. Innovation will need to be radical and play a central role in determining strategic plans and go to market messaging for marketers to continue to engage their audiences. Brands (both B2B and media) who are responsive in creating new opportunities for their clients to leverage will strengthen their position in the new digital ecosystem, and survive.
Part 2: In the Post-Covid World, Everyone Needs to Up their Content Game
How can we make content stand out and create meaningful dialogue to engage audiences?
Shared challenges in creating impactful content & having meaningful dialogue
Insight 1: Stand on the Shoulder of Giants for quality content
There are obvious barriers to creating impactful content in the digital world. Whether a marketer or media provider, the entire ecosystem finds this a challenge. Currently, 48% of EI's clients find proprietary channels most effective for disseminating content, in contrast to a mere 6% utilising third parties effectively. In a world where there is more proprietary activity than ever from brands and with quality being key to achieving audience engagement, is there a role for third parties to play around their content creation capabilities?
In the virtual world of events (both proprietary and third party), EI's Barometer shows that marketers and media providers struggle equally with audience engagement; however where marketers struggle to create head turning agendas/content and to secure high quality speaker line-ups, media providers excel. Third party providers are experts in content and there is an opportunity for marketers to leverage their content capabilities in the right place at the right time; using 3rd party and trusted B2B media brands that know their markets well can plug that content gap across a variety of channels.
Research content well through market research that cuts through the noise and offers appropriate insight on timing.
Understand the terminology that resonates with your audience to produce quality content.
Content remains king (or queen) and if you can find ways to engage users with compelling content, they tend to remember it. People are still hungry for ways to connect but everyone is stretched thin and 'zoomed out' so it is critical to find ways to create meaningful dialogues and/or moments for individuals or small groups.
Insight 2: New Business Models by Media Suppliers offer fresh content formats for Marketers to leverage across channels
74% of marketers surveyed are using digital content creation and syndication to plug the gap left by the standstill in f2f events, and to continue to engage audiences. Media and event companies are responding by increasing custom content production and their digital offerings, as well as delivering this content in fresh formats that is punchy, visual and snackable, a strategy that should also be replicated in the proprietary domain. Where trusted media providers are ramping up content creation capabilities. marketers can also leverage this capability to create content that feeds into their proprietary events. Interestingly EI's barometer highlights the changing role of heavyweight publishers; those who were running a handful of physical events throughout the year but already offering a variety of digital formats have successfully pivoted to virtual events where these formats offer a foundation for success. These providers have scaled up the volume of their virtual events offerings.
Insight 3: 'Small is the New Big' for audience engagement
72% of Barometer respondents (marketers) have been using small scale virtual proprietary events in lieu of physical events, whilst 39% have utilised virtual third party bespoke roundtables to reach audiences. Either way, small scale events in the digital world are proving successful in achieving improved audience engagement. Smaller intimate environments with a skilled Chairperson, offer an elevated platform for peer exchange of ideas, and intellectual conversation. They also push the envelope of sharing content that is impactful and meaningful. Working alongside reputable third party media brands to do this also offers unparalleled access to established senior level communities.
Part 3: Evolution of the Virtual Events Channel
How can we make the most of this new channel as it matures and embeds itself in the marketing mix?
Events 101: Maturation of the Digital Events Platform
Insight 1: Striving for Quality - Confidence and Capabilities in Virtual Events has increased
Over the course of the last two editions of EI's Barometer, client confidence in virtual events was low. With the pressure to engage quickly with virtual, both marketers and media providers struggled at first. In the publishing and events world those that had existing capabilities in digital with established audiences were more adept to capitalise and provide event solutions, whilst others took much longer to pin down a virtual events strategy. Digital skills sets, tech issues and a lack of attendee engagement amongst others all caused teething problems. Marketers moving to proprietary virtual event formats also struggled with taking on new roles as virtual event organisers for the business often running a higher number of events than ever before. However, as the year has progressed, education, trial and error, and shared learnings have gradually increased confidence in the digital events platform, with many ready to embed it as a new essential part of the marketing mix in the future. 78% of EI's clients believe that the quality of virtual events attended or sponsored has increased since March 2020, providing a new era of opportunity for Go-to-Market Strategy.
The more recent ones have been better - we're learning how to execute them better each time!
A meaningful digital platform surely takes a number of years to get an engaged and mature audience.
It's obviously hard to replicate f2f networking digitally, so you have to get creative about it. We have been getting better in the area with each virtual event we do.
Credit someone here…
Virtual Events 101: The Marketer's Viewpoint
What do EI's clients feel has improved since March 2020?
"Better understanding of the format - virtual events should not try and replicate the look and feel of in-person events - they should be treated as a channel in their own right with their own key features."
"I think people are appreciating you can't take the format and agendas of in-person and just flip to virtual. Needs a total mindset shift and re-building, not just pivoting."
"Peer to peer intimate roundtables seem to be really effective."
"Delegates and speakers more comfortable with a virtual event - much easier to get buy-in to the format and delivery of this type of event."
"Delegate targeting is better - mass targeting doesn't work; you get great numbers but not the audience you want or need. clever audience targeting is key."
"Better technology, improved content delivery, better agendas, more attendees."
Virtual Events 101: The Industry Viewpoint
How do media providers feel a better experience in virtual events can be achieved?
"We have become more agile and efficient in delivering virtual events, seen increased audiences and developed faster custom video production and delivery."
"We would like to see sponsors work closer in promoting their role at an event with a fully formed content sharing campaign before, during and after an event."
"Engage with the audience pre and post event. Engage with the drop-outs immediately"
"The virtual booth - make the most of this with unique offers, content and a mix of pre-recorded video and live content (more speaking sessions) to draw attention. You also need your BDR and marketers to utilise any chat functions and offer guidance or practical examples."
"Sponsors who commit to this effort by giving us target lists get more out of the virtual event. Also Sponsors that really engage with the platform - fill out profiles in advance, understand how the platform works in advance - get a greater benefit than those that turn up on the day and expect the world to fall in their lap."
Insight 2: Friend or Foe? Start understanding virtual events as a channel in its own right, rather than a direct replacement for physical events
Covid has forced Business Decision Makers into the virtual environment and as a result our understanding of virtual events has improved over the course of the year, and allowed us to gather information about their roles in improved audience engagement. By understanding them as their own beast, media suppliers and marketers alike are starting to look at them differently. When the lens changes, success is within our grasp. What have we learnt so far about digital events in action?
How to integrate Virtual Events into Your Go-to-Market Strategy
Large scale events are a broadcasting channel - leveraging trusted established media providers with editorial expertise and digital content capabilities offers access to global audiences in a boundary-less setting.
Allow your objectives to guide the type of event format you engage in - large scale events for brand awareness/thought leadership/speaker elevation/powerful reusable digital content; smaller events for audience engagement and lead nurture.
From a commercial POV bespoke roundtables are working well for audience engagement in an intimate setting that fosters dialogue.
Events within events is a killer concept in the F2F World (capturing targets on-site) but don't carry the same weight in the virtual world.
- Successful lead generation sponsorships are those with a clear targeting strategy and involve working closely with the supplier to provide and secure account wish lists.
Virtual booths no longer to be viewed as exhibition booths; but rather as content booths with the power to engage audiences further with elevated content.
Credible, authentic third party media providers should be leveraged for access to their audiences who have been curated from years of engagement within the industries they serve.
Education around leveraging tech platforms is essential for both sponsors and audiences. The onus is on everyone to encourage use of the tech platform in the right way - We are in it together!
Host more interactive sessions or host sponsored roundtables as opposed to presentations. Help to solve attendees' business challenges. Sponsors need to ask themselves, "What's the benefit to the attendee of this event? How will our participation truly offer customer value?
Star Insight: A holistic digital approach wins in the virtual event world
Our Barometer shows that audience engagement and retention is a major challenge for both marketers and media providers. Analysis from our survey also highlights the effort that is being exercised to enhance this. What proves to be working in everyone's favour is an integrated digital approach around events which serves to engage audiences with compelling digital formats of content, pre, during and perhaps most importantly post event. This long tail engagement cements audience interaction beyond the event itself, also providing a springboard to community building.
Redefining Networking in 2021
How can Marketers continue to create professional connections and build relationships online?
The Networking Reset
Time to redefine the meaning of success in the new virtual channel
Insight 1: A place for 'Networking' exists in the virtual world but the status quo has changed.
46% of EI's clients have had positive experiences around networking at virtual events which is heartening to see. What is clear is that those that have positive experiences understand that digital events must be viewed differently to physical events and our definition of networking might need to change in this world. Where networking in the physical world is elevated due to those chance encounters in coffee breaks or 'tap on the shoulder' moments walking the exhibition floor, this is not true of the virtual channel and we must stop trying to replicate those experiences. The value proposition is different; The virtual channel should be leveraged for its strength in creating those meaningful moments of information/ideas exchange between people of a shared professional interest, which naturally helps relationship building.
Key Questions for a Positive Networking Experience
What are you looking to achieve? Is your output to generate leads/make contact/deepen relationships? If it's lead generation, for example, does the event have a virtual business card drop facility?
How can media/event providers help facilitate networking? Do they offer a concierge or intelligent matchmaking service that secures enough meaningful meetings for you?
Are you able to engage in smaller breakout sessions/workshops/roundtables to facilitate meaningful dialogue and further relationships? How much time is being dedicated to this, as this is the 'new networking norm'?
Does the tech platform allow for intelligent tracking of attendees at breakout sessions? The impact of data in the virtual world is much greater allowing for a greater degree of post event follow up and deeper engagement.
Attendees mostly attend virtual events for the content, in our experience, so separate, purposeful time has to be made for meetings. With those meetings, the attendees have to be engaged in the reason 'why' and what's in it for them. If that happens then the challenges are vastly diminished.
Successful Networking Top Tips:
Focus on selected target groups and bespoke virtual networking around those groups - roundtables/breakouts/workshops.
9 is the magic number - the ideal number of attendees to maximise on engagement and provide for elevated discussion in the virtual setting.
Meet little and often - Weekly peer groups work well in community building. People want to feel part of something that is just bigger than an isolated one off event.
1-2-1 workshops/clinics/drop-ins work really well providing brands with the opportunity to share knowledge and profile internal expertise.
Choose tech platforms that have enhanced capabilities in networking for example expertise in 121 meetings.
Make time in the programme for networking and signpost it well.
Incentivise audiences with prizes either to secure enough virtual meetings or to encourage engagement with booths
Make networking fun in the virtual world and add the human element including things like cooking classes, and wine tasting.
Encourage attendees to have videos on.
Be more proactive when networking and staying focussed when attending I.e. not multitasking with emails etc whilst on the platform. Be more industry oriented than product focussed to enable better engagement.
Call through to each registrant prior to event to talk through how to use the platform in a 2 minute window whilst encouraging the networking benefits.
Networking should have a purpose, a theme.
Dedicated round table discussions with moderators who are clear on the topics and discussions. Ensuring attendees know it is expected to share audio and video.
What do B2B marketers need to think about in 2021?
The Return of F2F - What does this next 'new norm' look like?
Insight 1: Hybrid is the future: We all need to be prepared, upskill and ascertain what's best in class in this new realm.
A significant 46% of Media Providers surveyed are planning for F2F events to return to their portfolio in Q3 of 2021 and 86% will be considering a hybrid model moving forward. What is clear is that F2F may look very different to the pre-Covid era. With the offerings from event suppliers set to look very different and the virtual channel continuing to play a significant role in these offerings, marketers must take a central role in ensuring the business is prepared, educated and has a solid understanding of the new environment and how to leverage it for success. How can we be match ready?
Upskilling is essential not only for the marketing team but business stakeholders. This involves being digitally savvy to adeptly navigate tech platforms, be able to present well in both digital and physical environments, and to be socially savvy.
Acceleration of an end to end integrated digital approach as well as between digital, physical and social mediums. The physical and virtual experience of a company's brand must be seamless.
The onus will be on the marketing team to utilise data analytics available from virtual platforms and make it useful for the business., by feeding into Martech. MQL's will play a vital role in the new sales environment feeding into the ABM strategy,
Digital Marketing teams are now, more than ever before seen as integral to the events team, playing a central role in stewarding the move to hybrid, and ensuring an end to end digital approach.
It takes courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new
Lasting Changes for 2021 and Beyond:
With the absence of F2F events, media suppliers have developed different revenue models. From an events perspective, the mantra is 'smaller and leaner'; suppliers have lower revenues and lower costs in the virtual setting so marketers should be able to do more with less.
Marketers must think like a publisher – building loyal audiences for the virtual channel takes time and there is therefore an argument to sprint start by working with an external provider, truly leveraging the power of partnerships.
There will be ongoing conversations around whether a live engagement is a must versus a nice to have; in many cases, virtual engagement will make more sense, particularly where it drives costs down and allows time pressed business stakeholders to engage remotely.
With virtual and digital strategy playing an ever increasing role, Immersive experiences will form an integral part of this change across content delivery, ad units, events, LinkedIn live and social channels, all serving to boost engagement.
Digital experience is here to stay - Marketing Qualified leads strategies will be a core part of our plans.
There will be a mix of in person and digital - it is not one or the other. The pandemic has made us rethink our strategy.
Importance of advocacy and digital / social skills among business stakeholders (i.e. when they can't rely on face-to-face are they equipped to build their brand/network digitally).
Our conference and sponsorship strategy will be 100% virtual, and will most likely always have some virtual component to it. And as a result of that, we are able to redeploy those dollars into advertising.
No virtual trade shows for H1. More intimate events, but with few providers. More customer 'delighter' events using wine tasting etc to support business updates into ABM plans.
Director of Market Intelligence
Shivani honed her craft as an analyst before running the team herself. With a conference production background, she was keen to widen her horizons and have greater exposure to business. Her experience and skill have made her a vital part of the EI team, with a keen eye for detail and an analytical mindset. She has a methodical approach to management, not surprising with a degree in biochemistry and a masters in biochemical research.
Senior Client Relations and Marketing Leader
Victoria’s dynamic and proactive approach to her clients’ marketing needs has earned her huge respect within the B2B industry. Whilst ideally she’d like to be surfing in Hawaii or perhaps working as a physio for the England Rugby team, Victoria’s contribution to the growth of EI has been significant and she has become a fundamental part of the planning process for her clients. Victoria has also helped shape and develop EI taking ownership of the company’s own marketing strategy.